The Desert Eagle handgun is a large, powerful, gas-operated, semi-automatic handgun capable of firing the .50 AE (Action Express) caliber round, though minor field adjustments (changing of the barrel, bolt and magazine) can allow these handguns to fire the .357, .41, .44 and .440 rounds. The Desert Eagle was devised by the firm of Magnum Research, Incorporated in the United States of America, and its design was furthered by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) which went on to produce the somewhat similar Jericho 941, or "Baby Eagle", as it is marketed in the US. Despite a similar outward appearance between the two, the Jericho utilizes a different internal function. The Desert Eagle made its market entry in the middle of the 1980s and has found a special niche market with sport shooters, competition shooters and collectors (to which scopes and special muzzle extensions can be fitted). Hollywood maintains its own outrageous vision for the Desert Eagle and has featured prominently in movies.
The Desert Eagle .50 caliber handgun uses a special rifling technique in the bore to minimize the wear and tear upon bullet exit, thus extending the life of the weapon. It also utilizes a concept commonly found in rifle mechanics, featuring a rotating lock and bolt as opposed to a standard "blowback" principle. A short-stroke gas piston is fitted to the underside of the barrel. The Desert Eagle can fire up to 7 rounds of .50 A.E. ammunition (or .440 Cor-bon) and up to 8 rounds of .41 and .44 ammunition or 9 rounds of .357 ammunition. The single-action firing process forces the slide into the recoil position (much like the action found in other semi-automatic handguns) until a fresh round is chambered. The hammer is exposed at the rear of the frame and the magazine is loaded conventionally through the base of the rather stout pistol grip.
The size of the round, particularly the .50 caliber Action Express (AE), expectedly supplies a high level of recoil. Additionally, the auditory sound produced by this pistol requires the use of special heavy duty hearing protection especially when fired indoors. The action takes a certain amount of practice to master and, as such, the Desert Eagle handgun is said to be much better suited for big-game hunting than close-quarters combat in a military or home defense setting. However, Hollywood motion pictures would have the reader believe otherwise.
The Desert Eagle has since been produced in three distinct marks to include the Mark I, Mark VII and Mark XIX. The Mark I was the initial production model (since discontinued) while the Mark VII followed with its adjustable trigger unit. Both were available in varied barrel lengths of 6-, 8-, 10- and 14-inches and available in primary calibers of .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum (as well as later .41 Magnum and .50 AE forms). The Mark XIX is the latest production model of the Desert Eagle line and is itself based on the Mark VII. It is offered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .440 Cor-bon (with gold exterior finish) and .50 AE models. Unlike the Mark I and Mark VII before it, the Mark XIX is only marketed with the 6- and 10-inch barrel lengths.
Without a doubt, the Desert Eagle, particularly in its .50 AE from, is one very powerful handgun. It also comes at a steep price tag to interested owners and the ammunition itself is not cheap. For some owner / collectors, simple ownership of this large caliber handgun is enough, that is if your hand is large enough to hold it. Effective range is said to be approximately 200 meters.